One of the ‘consequences’ of us applying for PR was me having to write an IELTS test. Oh! Hold fast shattered nerves, I thought and promptly wrote them an email explaining that I studied in English and worked for a company where it was all I spoke for 8 plus hours a day. Noooo, they said, that trick will not work and I will have to provide proof that I can do English and the proof they are looking for is an IELTS general pass.
I would class myself as more than proficient in the Engelse Taal, but at the ripe old age (nudge, nudge, wink, wink – fishing for a compliment of ‘You do not look a day older than 21!) of 35(ish) I had to study for one of the biggest tests in my life (or so it felt). I sat in the Prospector Caravan Park in a boiling Kalgoorlie, with a borrowed book and internet tests. As it goes when studying I was so easily distracted and instead learnt about the types of wine in Australia (these guys really can still learn a bit from our Four Cousins and Co) and I wondered about the number of ants that I had to send to silent deaths during our stay there.
Anyone who has been to the Prospector Caravan Park in Kalgoorlie will know that although it is neat and tidy it does test your commitment to stay in the Great Southland. Combine this with an impending IELST test and you ask yourself the difficult question of whether you really want to be from Down Under, because being Down Under in Kalgoorlie is HOT and the English language may feel hellishly difficult as well!
I am still here, so you know the outcome.
We travelled to Perth to write the dreaded test. I stood in line to enter the hall and reminisced my uni days during exam time, only this time there was no cafeteria where I could go and order a monstrous pie and chips with mushroom sauce as comfort when finished.
“Don’t drink water before you go in,” the experienced and already passed IELTS candidates warned me. There is no time to go and pee while you write. I do not need water to want to go and pee. Give me stress and my bladder and bowels shrink and contract with the speed of light!
I took my seat next to a friendly chap from Brazil and we got talking. I’ve never been there (overseas is Zimbabwe’s Kariba lake to me, and that is not oversea either) and I will still wonder what it is like because I got a warning not to talk to the amicable youngster – and the testing had not even started. Note to prospective IELTS writers – imagine you are from Gauteng and you are in your car on the N1, your little cubicle is your car, it is you and your car and te moer met die res! You cannot talk to your neighbour, you cannot look at him. Just write boetie, write. So I started writing and everything went hunky dory. It followed the format of the tests on the internet. I forgot that I am from Gauteng and felt very sorry for the poor Asian person sitting in front of me. He truly did not have a clue why he was there, but it surely could not have been to write an English test as he did not understand a word, I kid you not, of the test! And he would have paid over $350 (not that cheap anymore I think) to sit in a test.
The essay writing went very well and I was finished quick enough to go and empty my poor screaming bladder which only knows the call of the nature. I walked out, feeling as giddy as a matric who has just written her last exam. We went to buy a petrol station pie and ended up at Gloria Jeans for a coffee and chocolate chip muffin instead.
The afternoon speaking session was looming darkly on the horizon. But hey, I speak this language every day and I can do this (I coined this phrase years before Barack Obama). We walked into the hall and this time I did not speak to anyone, even though we could. I was called. I went. I spoke. O, aarde sluk my in!
“Tell me about your best friend,” the man with the spectacles said. And he got a teary, frog in the throat declaration of my admiration and love for my best friend whom I just happened to be married to. Two weeks later I got the results and of course I passed. Do you think my distinction for English in matric and uni was for nothing? I tell you, those results almost meant more than me standing in a black toga on the stage at KOVSIES getting my degrees. I emailed the results to our case officer and within 5 minutes, (really) our PR application was approved!
Dear Migrant to the Great Southland
You may be a lot of things, but you are not stupid. You can do this thing. You just need to believe in yourself and keep trying if you failed once or twice or thrice. Aanhouer wen man!